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Hurricane Ridge - Olympic National Park - OutdoorPlaces.Com
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 Hurricane Ridge - Washington


Hurricane Ridge and the Olympic Mountains As Seen From Sunrise Point, OutdoorPlaces.Com, Copyright 1999 - 2004, OutdoorPlaces.Com, All Rights ReservedLocated in the northern half of Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge is the heart of day use activity. Starting at Port Angeles along Puget Sound the seventeen-mile long Hurricane Ridge Road snakes up the side of the Olympic Mountains to 5,240 feet. With the road sanded and paved by the National Park Service, Hurricane Ridge is a source of year round outdoor adventure.

Stopping at park headquarters in Port Angeles you can find out road conditions (critical in the wintertime), get a park map, seasonal newspaper, and find out what activities are available. For the first five miles the road climbs from 400 feet above sea level to just under 2,000 feet at the Heart O The Hills Ranger Station, the only overnight facility at Hurricane Ridge. Over the next twelve miles as you climb up the narrow road and through three different tunnels the plant life around you goes through a gradual change. Western red cedar, big leaf maples, grand firs, Pacific yew, and sword ferns give way to sub-alpine forest and wild flowers. The road passes by a number of scenic overlooks with the Double Parking Overlook, located about two miles past the third tunnel, being the best.

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When you reach the top of Hurricane Ridge the activity you can do is completely dependent upon the season and your interests. In June and July, the sub-alpine meadows to the north of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center are awash in a sea of color including red, blue, yellow and white. In August and September the wildflowers brown in the tepid northwest summer and what can seem like endless rain gives way to sunny days. October and November brings change to Hurricane Ridge, with frigid wind driven rain eventually becoming wet heavy snow. December to March Hurricane Ridge is transformed into a winter wonderland buried in snow, even though Port Angeles just eight miles to the north remains green year round. Finally in April and May the snow melts and the days get longer allowing the vital wildflowers to bloom once again.

A network of excellent paved trails course their way through the sub-alpine meadows. In the summer, extremely tame deer can be found nibbling on the foliage while incredible views that stretch across the Olympic Mountains to the south and out to Canada to the north take your breath away. During the winter the gently sloping meadows become a playground for families sledding and beginners honing their snowboarding skills before using the ski lift. Further to the north, telemark skiers carve paths down a number bowls while enjoying views of seemingly distant Puget Sound.

If you leave the paved trails you can hike 3/10 of a mile on a maintained trail north to Sunrise Point, pictured. The point on the ridge is clearly visible from the main paved trail. Despite the short distance the initial steep grade keeps many people away and even on a busy summer afternoon relative privacy can be enjoyed. The 270-degree view is stunning even when visibility is less than perfect.

From Sunrise Point you can continue north for 2.2 miles to imposing 6,454 feet high Mount Angeles, its rocky peak visible during the last few miles of your drive to Hurricane Ridge. The trail will bring to you about 5,900 feet with the remaining 550 feet being technical (but not terribly difficult) in nature. From Mount Angeles you can head east to the Switchback Trail that will climb back down to Hurricane Ridge Road, but it's a 5.2-mile walk back to the Visitor Center.

Past the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, the Hurricane Hill Road continues along the ridge. The last 1-3/10 of a mile is not for the faint of heart. The road is extremely narrow and comes right to the edge of the ridge, the absence of a guardrail is sure to raise your pulse. Two beautiful picnic areas are available along the way before the road finally ends at the Hurricane Hill Trailhead.

During the summer months visitors can climb the 1.6 mile (one way) paved trail to the top of 5,757 feet high Hurricane Hill. In the winter the same trail is used for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. If you are snowshoeing or skiing be sure to use the avalanche detour that is 2/10 of a mile past the trailhead. When conditions are right, telemark skiers can enjoy almost 1,000 feet of vertical carving a path down the Hurricane Hill Bowl.

The Visitor Center at Hurricane Ridge is world class. Providing a topographical relief map of Olympic National Park, a theater, interpretive center, emergency first aid, potable water, restrooms and a small restaurant. In the summer a wide variety of interpretive ranger programs are available. During the winter months cross country and downhill skies, snowshoes and poles can be rented. A ski lift is also available for a fee providing 400 feet of vertical drop. The park maintains two designated sledding areas for adults and young children. Interpretive ranger programs are held three days a week.

When weather conditions permit you can use Hurricane Ridge as a jumping off point to go even deeper into Olympic National Park. Obstruction Point Road winds southward for eight miles before ending at Badger Valley. From there a trek can be taken across Elk, Maiden, and Green Mountain to the Deer Park Ranger Station. Overnight parking isn't permitted but if you can get someone to drop you off you can hike eight miles west down off of Hurricane Ridge to Whiskey Bend in the Elwha Region of Olympic National Park. It's another 3.9 miles to the Elwha Ranger Station at a scant 390 feet above sea level, the 5,100 feet of elevation change in eight miles rivals the Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park.

Hurricane Ridge is just one of many different regions in Olympic National Park. Less than a two-hour drive from Seattle four seasons of adventure awaits even if you have a limited amount of time. For more information you can contact Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave, Port Angeles, Washington 98362-6798, (360) 452-4501.